Stephanie Hebb Real Estate Sales Person - Articles About Selling Your Home

How To Hold An Effective Garage Sale

As soon as the warm weather arrives, it becomes garage sale season; time to clean out the house and the garage, turn your unwanted stuff into someone else’s treasure, and make a few bucks in so doing.  Here are a few tips to help ensure that your garage sale is a success:

Pick a good date.  This is key.  Make sure it is not too early in the season when the weather is still iffy.  Wait until a few other brave souls have gone before you.  Don’t do it on a long weekend or you will limit the number of bargain hunters attracted to your sale.  Don’t do it too late in the season when the weather starts to cool off.

Promote it.  Try to get your garage sale posted on an on line community calendar or buy a classified ad in the local paper

Don’t sell yourself short.  When I hold a garage sale, I place coloured stickers on everything to indicate price, ie. green sticker is $1, orange sticker is $2, etc.  But if you have some new items or valuable items, make sure to use a price tag to set your starting price.  Be prepared to haggle though – that’s why some people like garage sales.

Arrange things.  Put some effort into sorting and arranging things in a visually appealing manner.  Group things together that might be bought together as a set. 

Make it an event.  Play music.  Provide doughnuts or encourage the kiddies to set up a lemonade stand; anything to add to the experience of attending your garage sale.

If the thought of holding your own garage sale is simply too much to handle, there are a number of charitable garage sales in the area.   In particular, we at Royal LePage hold a garage sale every May with the proceeds donated to the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation in support of women and children escaping domestic abuse.  If you’d like more information, please call me at 905-822-6900.

Living In Your For-Sale Home

You want to sell your home and you know it needs to look its best so you can attract the highest offers, but you still have to live in it, right? 

I’ve done that and I remember how tough it was.  With kids and pets, it was a constant struggle to have the house ready to show.  Luckily the second time we sold, we were able to move in with relatives for a couple of weeks while the house was being shown.  Once we had a firm deal, we moved back in.

If you can’t move out temporarily, here are some tips to help you make the best of it.

De-clutter.  In the weeks leading up to listing the house for sale, sort things into what you will take with you and what you will either sell, donate or throw away.  Don’t ever pay to move things you no longer want or need!  Pack and store items that you can live without until you arrive in your new home, for example seasonal or excess décor items.  This will do two things – help you keep the home tidy for showings and increase the impression of spaciousness.

Clean.  Take the time to thoroughly clean the house down to the last fingerprint.  Before you leave in advance of a showing, check sinks, toilets and mirrors and make sure they gleam like in a TV commercial. 

Stage.  Leave the house looking like something in a magazine. Remove personal photos and items so that potential buyers are able to see themselves in the home.  Choose décor items that appeal to everyone.   Turn on all the lights, play some soft background music and, in winter, turn on the gas fireplace.  Make sure the house smells good as well.

Safeguard.  To avoid having your privacy compromised by either purely nosy or unscrupulous people, put all personal documents away.  Items of value, such as fine jewelry should be stored in a secure area and not just put away in a jewelry box or drawer.

Pets.  I am a pet person, but not everyone is.  It is a good idea to have the pets away from the house, at least during showings, but preferably for the whole time the house is for sale to minimize possible odours, allergens and other things that might prevent a sale.

This is going to feel like a lot of work and stress, but once you sell your house and for a lot of money, you will see that it was worthwhile.

The Importance of Not Overpricing Your Home

One of the most important decisions when selling your home, is what price to ask.  Set the price too low and risk losing out.  Set the price too high and, well, lots of things can happen.

This may seem obvious but more buyers buy their homes at market value than above.  By setting your price too high, you may miss out on potential buyers shopping at the price your house should be, but below where you’ve chosen to list it.

A good rule of thumb is this.   If you have showings, but no offers, your price is likely off by about 5%.  Your property is underwhelming compared to others at the same price. 

If you have a very low number of showings, your price is likely off by 6-12%.  People can tell simply by the listing that your property isn’t comparably priced and, in fact, realtors may be using it to make comparable properties look like a bargain.

If you have drive by’s but no showings, your price is likely off by a fair bit.

You can always lower the price, right?  Yes you can, but research has shown that a property attracts the most attention when it is first listed.  The longer a property is on the market, the less likely it is to be shown.  Often, buyers assume that something is wrong with the property if it hasn’t sold.

Research has also shown that the longer a property sits on the market, the lower the average selling price.  Buyers may assume that you’re getting anxious to sell and will give you a ‘low ball’ offer.  Therefore the best chance you have to get fair market value is directly related to how new the listing is.

And isn’t it better to sell quickly at a good price?  After all, it’s a challenge to keep a house ship shape and ready to be shown at a moment’s notice. 

A REALTOR® should use comparable homes on the market or sold to steer you towards a fair price.  If a REALTOR® seems eager to list your property higher than market value and doesn’t explain the risks of doing so, be careful!  He or she may be agreeing just to get you to sign, knowing that you will likely have to drop the price later on when the house doesn’t sell.  A reputable REALTOR® knows this isn’t in a seller’s best interest and would counsel against pricing too high.

Getting Ready to Move

At this time of year, many people are thinking about selling their homes. If you plan on being part of the Spring market, or even the Fall, market, it’s a good time to start preparing for your move.

Step One - Organization

The first step involves organizing things into what you will be taking with you and what you won’t. In some cases, the decisions will be easy. You want to move to a condo apartment, so you won’t need a lawnmower or garden tools. You’re planning for fewer bedrooms or bathrooms, so you may have entire rooms of things you will no longer need.

Sometimes, the decisions aren’t easy so you’d be well advised to leave yourself a lot of time for this step.

Step Two – Disbursing of Things

The second step is to get rid of the things you aren’t planning to take on your move. (The side benefit of this is that, at the same time, you will be de-cluttering your home in preparation for any staging you may want to do before putting the home on the market.) You may want to gift some of the more valuable things, either to individuals or organizations that could use them. You will likely want to sell some things, which could mean a garage sale or a classified ad. You will be able to donate many things to various churches and charitable organizations. I will hazard a guess that you may have a few things that simply need to be thrown away – things you thought might come in handy, but never did.

The second step is an important one. You don’t want to pay to pack and move things that you don’t really need or want.

Step Three - Pack

The third step is to start packing. Obviously at this stage you won’t want to pack things you still need for everyday living, but you can begin to pack some things such as family photos (its best to remove these when the house is for sale anyway) and excess decorations. If it’s possible, store the packed boxes out of sight in the cellar or consider renting a storage locker for a month or two.

When this step is done, you will be de-cluttered and much closer to being ready to move.

Sometimes, downsizing and de-cluttering can be overwhelming. Keep in mind that there are companies that specialize in helping people to move.

For more tips from my personal experience downsizing, please ask me to send you my “Tips on Downsizing.” It provides more detail on how to sell and donate goods. I can be reached at 905-822-6900 or at

Different Ways to Sell A House

It’s the new year.  Time to look ahead to your plans for 2016.  If you’re considering moving house this year, you’re probably starting to think about options for how to buy and sell.   Let’s look at some of the alternatives.
For Sale By Owner (FSBO)
The real estate market was hot in 2015 with countless stories about bidding wars and houses selling the same day sometimes far in excess of the asking price.  With buyers lining up to purchase homes, why not try to sell it yourself?



  • You will save some of the real estate commission by doing it yourself.
  • You will be in the drivers seat.  You will do your own photography, staging, book your own appointments, conduct your own showings and negotiate your own price.  You may pay a bit more to your lawyer to draw up the deal than if you had used a REALTOR®, but it would still be much less than paying a realty commission.
  • If you don’t market effectively or set the right price, you may sell for less than you could have or, conversely, list too high and not sell. 
  • You will find that handling phone calls, appointments and managing showings can be extremely time-consuming. 
  • But the biggest con of DIYing the sale of your house will be the lack of exposure to a broad pool of prospects.  Almost 65% of Canadians start their home search online.  Not having a listing on the MLS® (multiple listing service) will significantly limit your pool of potential buyers.
Discount Brokerages
The increasing role of the internet in the home search process had led to the advent of discount brokerages like Comfree and Property Guys.  While there are many variations, essentially these brokerages will provide an MLS® listing for a fee or low commission rate and may offer some support an a la carte basis.

  • As above, you are still in control with some marketing and negotiation resources available to you if needed.
  • Your home will appear on the MLS® with broad exposure to buyers
  • This option may not save you as much as you think.  Almost three-quarters (74%) of Canadian homebuyers still choose to hire a REALTOR® to help them in their search.  If a REALTOR® is including your home as one of many they are showing to a buyer, they will want to get paid for their time.  Often sellers end up offering standard commission to the buyer’s REALTOR®.  So the 1% they paid to the discount listing brokerage becomes 3.5% once the commission to buyer’s agent is factored in.
Full Service Brokerage
This is probably the best-understood option so I won’t go into it in great detail.  Simply put, a full service REALTOR® will look after all the marketing, appointments, showings, paperwork , inspections and negotiations.   They will have the experience and knowledge of the local market to help you.  One last thing that is often undervalued; in Canada licensed REALTORS® are held to a strict code of ethics and have a fiduciary obligation to protect and promote the interests of their Clients.  If a problem should arise, there are systems in place to protect the Clients.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this with me, please feel free to give me a call at 905-822-6900 or email me at

When Is the Right Time To Downsize?

Whether thinking of our parents or ourselves, at some point everyone asks this question and there is no one answer to it.  Fundamentally, it is time to downsize when your present accommodation no longer meets your needs.  There may be any of a number of reasons for this.  Here are a few common reasons to consider downsizing.

Too Much House.  There comes a time when the house feels too big.  For some, it becomes difficult to maintain such a large space, whether it is the physical act of cleaning and keeping the house in good repair or the financial repercussions of paying for space you no longer need.

If there are rooms in the home that you no longer use, you might think about moving to a smaller space.

Some people decide to forego a second floor and choose to move to a bungalow in which they can age more comfortably.

Climate Change.  For some, the decision to downsize is based on a desire to travel the world or spend the winters somewhere warm.  By downsizing here in Canada, they can afford to spend a few weeks travelling or as “snowbirds” in the South.

Indulge a Passion.  Some people choose to downsize while making it easier to do something they love.  Moving closer to family or friends is a common goal.  For others, moving closer to the golf course or the lake where they fish is the key.

Sometimes the current home itself doesn’t suit the owner’s passion.  By downsizing, it may become possible to have a workshop or garden space or dog run.

For the Money.  Of course there may be a financial benefit to downsizing.  After years of home ownership, during which the value of the home has risen, selling is a way to unlock the financial equity that has built up.

Moving to a less expensive style home or a less expensive area is a way to both put money in the bank and reduce the monthly cost of living.

Too much stuff.  Lastly, most of us accumulate way too much stuff in our homes.  All that clutter can be physically and mentally draining.  Downsizing is a great opportunity for the catharsis of getting rid of things you no longer need!

If you are considering downsizing and need a hand, please give me a call at 905-822-6900. 

What not to do (if you want ROI)

In a recent column we looked at renovations that generate the highest return on investment, such as painting, kitchens and baths.  This month, let’s look at the flip side.  What upgrades are the least likely to pay back when you sell.

Let’s start by eliminating the whole area of “value in use” where the homeowner’s perception of the value exceeds market value and/or the cost of the upgrade.  Some examples of this would be things like lap pools or squash courts or car lifts; expensive things that have a very limited appeal.

But there are other, more common upgrades that generally will not create a return on investment. 

Pools.  Pools are expensive to install but not everyone wants a pool.  There is liability associated with them and they require time and money to maintain.  A pool will probably only net between 10-40 percent of the cost upon resale.

Skylights.  Skylights may let the light in, but won’t increase the value.  A skylight will generally return less than 25% of the cost upon resale.

Broadloom.  Wall to wall carpet is considered dated by today’s buyers.  Hardwood or laminate flooring is preferred.

High end appliances.  Nice, new appliances are expected in a home.  But super high-end or commercial quality appliances, things like Wolf or Aga stoves, walk in fridges, or Vulcan ovens will not add back in value what they cost to install.

The other thing to keep in mind is that your upgrades should never be at the expense of basic functionality.  If you can expand your master ensuite bath or walk-in closet, that’s great!  But don’t do it by reducing your three bedroom home to a two bedroom home or you will lose out at resale.  

Renovating for ROI

Thinking about selling your house?  Here are a few suggestions on where to spend a bit of time and money sprucing things up for maximum return on investment.

Painting – Fresh paint in a light, neutral palette is an easy way to brighten up your space.

Lighten up – Allow natural light in by washing windows and opening blinds and curtains.   Use the brightest light bulbs recommended for lamps and fixtures.

Flooring – Homebuyers are showing a preference for wood flooring.  With many options available such as hardwood, engineered or laminate, flooring can be a cost-effective upgrade.

Hardware and Fixtures – Replacing things like cabinet and drawer pulls, door handles, light fixtures and faucets will provide an instant lift in your home.

Kitchen – It is possible to update your kitchen without spending a fortune.  Consider re-facing cabinets and replacing appliances.  There are many options available for counter tops that won’t break the bank.

Bathrooms – Buyers prefer bathrooms with clean lines and light colours.  Consider replacing the vanity, the shower enclosure or the toilet.  Re-glaze a tub in need of minor repair.  And don’t forget fresh caulking to help the bathroom look shiny and clean.

Front Door – As buyers walk up to your door you want them to have a good first impression.  Think about a fresh coat of paint on the door and replacing door knobs and kick plates with new nickel ones.  Tidy up the landscaping and add urns or potted flowers to increase curb appeal.

When in doubt, a realtor can help advise you on what improvements could generate the most return in your home.

Should I renovate before I sell?

When considering selling a house, many people ask whether or not they should renovate in order to garner a higher price. There is no one answer to this question as it very much depends on your specific circumstances. 
There are two circumstances when it probably does not make sense to renovate and they are at either end of the spectrum.  If your house is already the best one on the street, you are probably at the top of the market and won’t recognize any additional benefit.  If your house is the worst on the street – in need of both costly repairs and remodeling – it probably makes sense to sell as-is.  One technique your realtor might employ is to list below market value, hold off offers until a specific time and try to create a competition that will push the sale price up as high as the market allows.


If your property falls within the two extremes it is more difficult to decide what to do.  First, make sure you know your competition.  What have homes sold for and in what kind of shape?  Would “staging” be sufficient to show your home’s full potential?  By staging I mean, fresh paint, de-cluttering, modernizing hardware and lighting fixtures and potentially renting some furnishings for the showings.
If you determine that a renovation is necessary, be prudent about it.  Set a budget and stick to it.  And spend your money wisely.  In general, kitchen and bathroom renovations generate the highest ROI so start there.  Sometimes inexpensive solutions can go a long way.  Replace the kitchen counter, reface cabinets and change hardware, the sink and appliances rather than rebuilding the kitchen from the floor up.  In the bathroom, paint a neutral colour, re-glaze the tub, replace the toilet and vanity and change up old lighting fixtures and hardware.  
If in doubt, a realtor can help you determine what steps to take based on recent sales in your neighbourhood.


Should I stay or should I go?

Sooner or later it happens to every homeowner; they realize that their home no longer meets their needs.  Typically this is caused by a change in family status – need more space for kids or less when they grow up and leave home but there are many other scenarios as well.  The next question is what to do about it – sell or renovate?  Here are some tips to help answer that pivotal question.


First, examine the reasons why the home no longer works.   Is the house too small?  The living space ill-conformed to your changing needs?  Maybe a remodel is the answer.  Is the house too far away from a new job or a family member who you see often?  Is the neighbourhood deteriorating?  A renovation won’t be the answer.
Secondly, examine the financial pros and cons.  On the one hand there is the cost of remodeling (and the sky is the limit depending on what you want to achieve) versus the cost of moving.  Don’t underestimate the cost of moving which is typically about 10% of the value of the home by the time things like realtor commission, land transfer tax and the physical move itself are factored in.
But more importantly consider the value of your home.  If you home is already at the top end of value in the neighbourhood, putting more money into it may turn it into a White Elephant – a house where the cost of the renovations won’t be recouped as a resale.  This can be a finally devastating situation if a homeowner is forced to sell unexpectedly and ends up losing money.
Either way you decide, use both your head and your heart to make the decision and it will be the right one for your situation.